Last week I attended the launch party for the new online eyewear company, Felix + Iris. The site is set to launch on September 16th and after that date you can check out all the amazing features that the company will be offering to make shopping for glasses online a breeze. During the event, I got a sneak peek and had the opportunity to test out their fun online ordering process, peruse some of their gorgeous eyewear styles and even order a pair of my own. This is the pair I am getting. It’s their Jordan style. What do you think?
While putting my outfit together for the event I thought about the process I go through when styling an outfit of my own. I had already decided earlier in the week that I was going to wear one of my favorite navy dresses, the Jackie dress from Dobbin, but until I was getting ready to leave I hadn’t given much thought to how I would be accessorizing it. This inspired today’s wear-to-work blog post. Here are my tips on how to change up your basic work looks using accessories because, after all, the key to a great look is all in how it is finished.
These were all the pieces in the final look I wore to last week’s event. In addition to the Dobbin dress, I wore my favorite earrings from April Martin Designs, a few gold and silver bangles, my Naya Maeve platforms, a new watch and scarf, that came in my September box from Wantable.com, and I carried my Melie Bianco handbag (sans long strap). While the Dobbin dress on its own is beautiful, not to mention figure flattering and outrageously comfortable in ponte knit, what made the outfit pop is how how chose to finish it. With these components I had a look, I wasn’t just wearing a dress.
Basics are important, but what is even more important is how you finish them
I obviously don’t have to convince you that workhorse basics are crucial to any balanced and versatile wardrobe. Worn on their own without any interesting accessories they are usually fine. However, by not styling them you are seriously missing out. The finishing components used in conjunction with your basics not only give you more to wear with less, but also give you the ability to change up these base pieces based on mood, where you are going, the message you want to convey, and more.
Take for example the outfit I wore to the event. I was attending a fashionable evening and, with such a basic dress, I knew I had to add some elements to the look to make it a bit edgier. When choosing shoes, instead of going with a classic pair of nude pumps, I went with a style that was more modern. I chose my scarf and earrings to infuse some additional color into the look and chose the other items to bring in some richness. For this event it was perfect. However, if I was to wear this same dress to speak at an ultra-conservative corporation to speak the accessories I would choose would be much more understated and classic. Same dress, completely different message, simply with the change of how it would be finished. If you want to get more with less, consider how many accessorizing options you have to change up your basics.
What to ask yourself when accessorizing a basic outfit for work
When accessorizing an outfit for work here are some questions to ask yourself to help you decide what the right finishing components should be.
Question #1- Where am I going and who is my audience?
This is the most important question to ask yourself. Knowing where you are going and who your audience will be is crucial. When I say audience I don’t exclusively mean it in terms of public speaking. Audience means who will be listening to you and who you will be interacting with. If you have a really important client meeting, for example, your audience would be much different than if your audience was a group of co-workers.
Question #2- What is the message I want to convey?
What do you want to communicate to the people you will be interacting with? A funky, trendy outfit may work in some environments but may also come across as flip and flighty in others. Just like the outfit I wore last week to the Felix + Iris event was perfect for the venue whereas it wouldn’t work in a more corporate environment. It’s important not only consider your audience but to also be clear on what you want to communicate to them and how you would like to be perceived by others, and yourself. Our image is one of the strongest means of communication. If you want to communicate powerfully consider whether your outfit is working for or against you.
Question #3- How can I change up this look to fit my message and audience?
Now that you know where you are going and what you want to communicate the next step is to create a look using your accessories. Pull out a basic piece and think about how a change up of shoes, a different pair of earrings, an interesting color combination, etc. can make your basic pieces look different and right for the requirements of the event or situation you are going into. With basic pieces it can be so easy because basics usually lend themselves to tremendous variety in how they are finished. Just remember, your basic pieces are only as useful as the finishing options you have on hand to use. Let’s take a look at some examples.
How to Change Up Your Basic Work Looks with Accessories
Below are three basic looks, all which would be perfectly fine to wear to work. By changing out the accessories you can see how the basics can go from one type of situation to another. Before you go out and buy more clothes, take a look the variety you have in your accessories. Chances are you don’t need more clothes, you need more accessories.
Basic work look #1- The sheath dress
Here is a basic navy sheath dress from J. Crew that could be a workhorse in any woman’s wardrobe. If you have a dress like this, to get the most out of it, it is important to look at the coordinating items you own to wear with it. The more variety you have the more use you can get from a dress like this and the more you can change it up based on your mood, what you are doing and the message you want to convey.
Shown here are three very different looks. In the first outfit I made the dress look a bit more modern using a grey cropped jacket from French Connection, a bold statement pendant from Anthropologie, a fun Modcloth bracelet and a pair of navy shootie style pumps. For a handbag, working off the mint in the necklace, I added this handbag, also from Modcloth.
In the second outfit the dress is ready for something more conservative. I added a knit jacket from Reiss, an ivory bib necklace from Stella & Dot, a pair of navy stud earrings and finished the outfit with a navy handbag and blush shoes.
Lastly, for a classic look with a twist, I took the colors found in this scarf from Nordstrom and added a pair of burgundy suede shoes, an orange handbag, a gold cuff bracelet from Ann Taylor and orange and burgundy earrings.
Three very different looks using one simple dress.
Basic work look #2- Black a-line skirt and white blouse
Something as basic as a white button down and black skirt is the perfect foundation to do just about anything. Using this skirt from Boden and blouse from Reiss I am going to give you a few options for consider.
First, if you’re sick of how stark black and white is, all you have to do is add some warmth to the look using mid-brown colors. Take, for example, the way this cognac cardigan from J. Crew, horn necklace from Anthropologie, brown boots and bag, along with simple gold studs and cognac belt, add richness to this optic base.
Next, for a sweeter, more feminine look that is less rugged, I simply used this pink cardigan from Boden, a pair of slate blue flats, pink and blue earrings from Bauble bar and a floral printed handbag from Hobo.
If you like the stark base of this outfit, you can play on it further. Here I added a textured T Tahari bomber jacket, a pair of black heeled booties from Vince Camuto (that would look great with black opaque tights), a black geometric necklace from Max & Chloe, a wide red belt and bold tote from Nine West.
Basic work look #3- A top and pants
A basic top and pair of tailored pants may get you out the door but it’s not doing much for you style-wise. In order to not get bored to tears in such a humdrum outfit you need to add some flavor. Plus each day the flavor that you use to finish this base can be different depending on what you have on deck that day. Here I am using a basic Gap ballet t-shirt in coral and a pair of black pair of Elie Tahari pants to show you add some variety to a simple look.
In this first outfit I made this outfit much more elegant and ladylike using this Tory Burch jacket, beige pumps and Ivanka Trump handbag and simple coral drop earrings.
Next, for a business-casual work environment, the addition of this relaxed grey textured cardigan, dark silver bib necklace Bauble Bar and funkier stack heel, peep-toe, mary jane pumps get the job done without putting you to sleep. The outfit is finished using a grey handbag from Calvin Klein.
For a last look that is even more casual, but still polished, the basic pants and top is finished using a deep coral necklace, printed scarf from Echo, denim jacket, teal Coach handbag and gold flats.
Always remember the third step of finishing your basic work looks and you may find that you have a lot more wardrobe options than you originally thought.
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Some great ideas there. What I struggle with is making myself buy the basics (and making sure I get basics that are right in terms of fit, fabric etc.) When I find a basic that works, I wear the heck out of it, but a) they’re hard to find b) I don’t want to spend much money on them and c) it’s hard to make myself buy them at all. I prefer to buy accessories and more interesting bits of clothing, but then I get stuck with unworkable outfits…
Yes, it can seem hard to justify the cost of basics because they aren’t that exciting, however, they are investments that can offer more value to the interesting things. These are also the pieces that you keep for a long time because they are timeless. As you said, you wear them to death. By having more options to wear with them you will get even more value!
Eleanorjane you sound like me! I had a closet full of interest pieces but few good basics till I discovered capsule wardrobes! I learned here and on YLF how to pull out interest pieces and then decide what I needed to add to pull them together in a capsule. I ended up purchasing a couple of structured pants, pencil skirts, 2 basic jackets. I am still in search of a sheath dress and a nice shirt dress.
Yes! Basics are like the glue that connects all the interesting items! They don’t have as much of a wow-factor or are exciting to shop for, but, without them, you won’t get the most from all the great stuff you have in your closet! I am glad YLF helped with that!
I have a closet of basics and need to work with my interest pieces more to change up… I’m planning on wearing a basic sleeveless sheath out to dinner for my birthday. Now I’m thinking of popping a coral ruffle front wrap blouse on top with a little jewelry. I’ve struggled to find ways to wear the wrap blouse … this could be it! Thanks for the inspiration post.
Great post. I really like all the levels of formality shown, and anything with coral has my vote! Burgundy and orange – didn’t see that one coming!
I like those glasses on you Bridgette! I’ve been looking for a new pair for quite a while now so I will check out that new site tomorrow.
How did I miss your comment? My husband hates these glasses on me. Ah well.
Simple question: how do you wear a scarf AND a necklace? I see you’ve done that on outfit #3 and as I’m big fan of statement necklaces and scarves, I’d love to know whether you can somehow have both on at the same time.
Yup, you sure can! I do it all the time. This photo has some photos at the end. I get asked this all the time. https://bridgetteraes.com/2014/10/22/its-a-wrap-how-to-wrap-a-pashmina-scarf/